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Helmet Cam Department Question

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  • Helmet Cam Department Question

    What is your policy/ reason for allowing the cameras?

    This question goes out to all the departments that ALLOW Helmet cams. I know this is a subject that is split between departments and ours is at a cross road with it as well.

    An officer of our department was caught on camera not doing something he said he did and now the guys upstairs are going to bring up a policy to ban the cameras. The reasons sited are privacy of peoples house and the chances of us getting sued for doing something we are not supposed to (aka not protecting property the way we are trained to).

    I, for one, think it is an amazing training tool that we have used in the past and would like some hard facts to defunct the claims above.

    I read this thread from 2010: http://www.firehouse.com/forums/t115662/ let's try to get another discussion going as it's 6 years later.

  • #2
    We don't have a policy at my department, and I don't know of anyone that has the cameras on the department. I wish we did.

    That said, they are used in law enforcement all the time. First it was primarily dash cams, now it is trending toward a combination of dash cams and body cams. It is a trend I really like. The defendant never shows up in court in the same condition or with the same story as what actually happened, and the jury generally finds the video to be extremely compelling. It has helped weed out some of the few that were problems, and has only served to bolster the ones that were doing their job correctly to begin with. Like the officer in Georgia here a few weeks ago that was accused by a firefighter and another employee that filed complaints against the officer. Without the body cam, who knows what would have happened. With the body cam, the officer is exonerated and the two filing the false accusations are in hot water.

    To me, the video would have the same benefit for firefighters. In today's litigious society, anyone will sue for anything. Someone's house burns down, they are looking for a windfall, and may see the fire department as that ticket. It is entirely possible for a house to burn down and the fire department to be doing everything they can to save it. Without a video, it is homeowner vs. fire department. Videos will either substantiate or refute the accusations. Similar to the police, a well-trained department probably benefits from the videos, as well as getting good footage for training. For a department that is not where it needs to be on training, they are running the same risk of being exposed as the officers that were not behaving properly. But with the advent of the modern cell phone, video is being taken, anyway. So not having it doesn't really serve any measure of protection. If anything, not having a camera going is a liability because the other videos being taken may not capture the entire incident or exactly what is being seen by the firefighters. Videos don't necessarily lie, but they also don't necessarily capture the entire event, which can make them misleading.

    I would suggest modeling it some after police department video policy. They have significantly more experience implementing, using, and presenting/defending in court. The videos are considered property of the department, not the officer, even though the officer may retain possession. They are released when authorized by operation of law or department policy. I would think regulation in this manner would be preferred in lieu of an outright ban.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by WVFD705 View Post
      We don't have a policy at my department, and I don't know of anyone that has the cameras on the department. I wish we did.

      That said, they are used in law enforcement all the time. First it was primarily dash cams, now it is trending toward a combination of dash cams and body cams. It is a trend I really like. The defendant never shows up in court in the same condition or with the same story as what actually happened, and the jury generally finds the video to be extremely compelling. It has helped weed out some of the few that were problems, and has only served to bolster the ones that were doing their job correctly to begin with. Like the officer in Georgia here a few weeks ago that was accused by a firefighter and another employee that filed complaints against the officer. Without the body cam, who knows what would have happened. With the body cam, the officer is exonerated and the two filing the false accusations are in hot water.

      To me, the video would have the same benefit for firefighters. In today's litigious society, anyone will sue for anything. Someone's house burns down, they are looking for a windfall, and may see the fire department as that ticket. It is entirely possible for a house to burn down and the fire department to be doing everything they can to save it. Without a video, it is homeowner vs. fire department. Videos will either substantiate or refute the accusations. Similar to the police, a well-trained department probably benefits from the videos, as well as getting good footage for training. For a department that is not where it needs to be on training, they are running the same risk of being exposed as the officers that were not behaving properly. But with the advent of the modern cell phone, video is being taken, anyway. So not having it doesn't really serve any measure of protection. If anything, not having a camera going is a liability because the other videos being taken may not capture the entire incident or exactly what is being seen by the firefighters. Videos don't necessarily lie, but they also don't necessarily capture the entire event, which can make them misleading.

      I would suggest modeling it some after police department video policy. They have significantly more experience implementing, using, and presenting/defending in court. The videos are considered property of the department, not the officer, even though the officer may retain possession. They are released when authorized by operation of law or department policy. I would think regulation in this manner would be preferred in lieu of an outright ban.
      Officers meeting tonight...

      Their argument "What happens if joe firefighter goes into fire and does something wrong and then the insurance company doesn't pay out for the family. Too much liability"... Gotta love it.

      Comment


      • #4
        1 camera is not going to "prove" anything. You want video coverage of a scene to protect you from a lawsuit? You will need multiple cameras from many angles along with recorded audio, both of radio transmissions and external sounds. And yes, it will all need to be time synced. Without that, any half decent lawyer can introduce multiple issues with what a camera shows/doesn't show.
        "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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        • #5
          Be careful what you wish for. There's more to it than the FD "doing everything they can" to save a building. The lawyers will compare everything that was done to the SOP's for the department. We all no there are no "perfect" fireground operations. It would be real easy to make us look bad. All the training in the world won't solve that. And if there are no real SOP's, they'll come after you for not having them.

          Comment


          • #6
            Thinking the lack of a camera makes us safer from litigation is wishful thinking, in my opinion. How many calls do you guys go on where there are no cameras? We are out in the sticks, and even we are being filmed by someone far more often than not. If things go well, we may never know about it. If not, it is safe to assume there will be video of it and the video will capture us in the worst light possible.

            Again, the police complained about these at first, but when the true benefit of the

            Originally posted by captnjak View Post
            Be careful what you wish for. There's more to it than the FD "doing everything they can" to save a building. The lawyers will compare everything that was done to the SOP's for the department. We all no there are no "perfect" fireground operations. It would be real easy to make us look bad. All the training in the world won't solve that. And if there are no real SOP's, they'll come after you for not having them.
            They already do that, anyway. They compare SOP's/SOG's to NFPA, and then make a mountain out of any discrepancies. Then they grill firefighters on training, and look at training records. If training doesn't fully address NFPA or departmental standards, that will be a problem. If something was done at the fire ground that went against either, that will be a problem. And if a firefighter doesn't remember everything he or she did on the fireground, that will be a problem. And time is on the lawyer's side. We were involved in a case from a fire in 2007. The case was not resolved until last year. How many of us can remember exactly what we did or why we did it on each call 8 years later?

            The lawyers will have other witnesses. "Expert" witnesses that get paid to review your documents and testimony, and then tell the jury what you should have done or shouldn't have done instead. I refer to these people as Witnesses Having Other Reasonable Explanations, or whores for short. They may hire a PI to dig through social media, visit with neighbors, and try to come up with some eyewitness video. Then they will show this video to the whore, and the whore will use this grainy, distant, very abstract partial video of the incident to show all of the areas he or she feels the department failed.

            What happens when the plaintiff's attorney asks if the department has any videos. When they are told no, what happens when they ask why? Are videos allowed at the department? Why not? Oh, they are banned? Why are they banned? When was this decision made?

            Law enforcement was generally against cameras at first. Everyone was afraid it would make them look bad or they would end up in hot water. For the few bad apples, that happened. For most of the rest, when they began seeing some of the benefits of the videos, now even if it were voluntary, almost all prefer having them to not. And keep in mind, at least one lawyer looks at every case, generally two or more. And one of those has the specific job of trying to discredit that officer and cast that officer in the worst light possible.

            For my department, I wish we had a dash cam on every apparatus and a helmet cam on every helmet. It would be a great tool for training, and it might help reform or expose some of the members that can be problematic.

            Comment


            • #7
              Big difference in a cop wearing a camera that shows whats going on in front of him and FF wearing a helmet cam showing black smoke.

              Truly should not be trying to compare the two situations as they are worlds apart.
              "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Bones42 View Post
                Big difference in a cop wearing a camera that shows whats going on in front of him and FF wearing a helmet cam showing black smoke.

                Truly should not be trying to compare the two situations as they are worlds apart.
                I disagree. You would be surprised what you can see with a fire cam if you are low to the ground and when ventilation starts. Also the glow of the fire shows through depending on the situation. It's not 100% different from the police to say the least.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Pr3dict View Post
                  I disagree. You would be surprised what you can see with a fire cam if you are low to the ground and when ventilation starts. Also the glow of the fire shows through depending on the situation. It's not 100% different from the police to say the least.
                  I think the biggest difference is that with law enforcement they will likely go after the officer, the department and the governing agency but with firefighters they will likely go after the IC and/or the supervisor, the department and the governing agency. So right off the bat it is worse for LEO's. I suspect you are at least partially wrong in your assertion that LEO's have come to embrace body cameras.

                  You are correct that there are already many ways to come after a FD, so why give them yet another? Not having cameras is not a presumption of guilt. You can just go with the privacy issue. Or the we can't afford them defense. It would still be better to explain why you have no cameras than having to explain what and why the guy(s) on the camera did what he did.

                  Not remembering what you did or what happened is not a "problem". As long as they can't prove somehow that you do remember.

                  Comment

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